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Stet Newsletter | July 2017

01 Jul 2017 9:55 AM | Cynthia Tomusiak (Administrator)
Stet Newsletter
July 2017

Volume 36 | Number  7

Editor's Note

Stet Editor Cynthia TomusiakCynthia Tomusiak

I am flying back from Pueblo, Colorado after my first visit there. I went for work and spent five days there. Overall, I travel fairly lightly – a backpack and a carry on. I have a Mac Book Air and my i-Phone and I get most things done with those two items. I can use my i-Phone as a phone, a scanner, a Wi-Fi hotspot if there is no internet, send messages and keep myself entertained. I store most of my files in the cloud so the smaller storage space on the Mac Book Air is not a problem and I can then access them from anywhere should I need to. It is light and has a solid-state system that is good for travel. The only thing I cannot do is print. When I fly, I plan to be able to print or download items to a thumb drive and use someone else’s printer.

When I drive, I have a portable printer. It is an Epson WorkForce-100 color printer. It measures 12” x 6” x 2 ½”, is just under four pounds and holds 20 sheets. It prints a 4x6 photo in seventy-seven seconds, less for a letter on standard paper.

What are your work "must haves" when you travel?

I am not advertising any of these items, they are what I have found to be useful and good for travel. What are your work "must haves" when you travel? Do you have any recommendations you could send into Stet? Thanks! I hope you have happy travels and a happy Independence Day!

If you would like to contribute an article to Stet or be featured in an upcoming IWOC member profile, contact me and plan to submit before the monthly deadline of the 15th. Thank you.

- Cynthia Tomusiak

July Meeting Preview

Press Release Basics

Get to the point in the first paragraph and be clear and concise. Place a “grabber” in the headline. Drop the “biz blab.” Ferret out the most unique aspect of whatever it is you’re promoting, be it a business (yours or a client’s), an organization, product or event.

Expect to hear these fine points and lots more at the next IWOC meeting on July 11, when IWOC President Laura Stigler and past president and IWOC parliamentarian David Steinkraus present what has been one of the most popular perennial attractions at Chicago’s LakeFX CreativeCon: “Press Release Basics.”

During the workshop, Stigler, owner of Advertising/Marketing company Shebang! Writing-2-Consulting, and Steinkraus, a journalist specializing in science, medicine and the environment and photographer, will draw from their own backgrounds and experience to advise IWOCers on crafting “killer” press releases.

Both panelists will demonstrate the ins and outs and do’s and don’ts of writing quality press releases that are most likely to grab media attention and boost chances of news coverage.

Questions to ask yourself that will guide you towards writing the most effective release ever!

Among topics to be addressed:

  • The state of the media industry today – the pros and cons as it relates to releases
  • The differences between Advertising vs. Press Releases – and why the latter might serve you (or your client) better
  • The anatomy of a press release, from the correct format to what the headline and first paragraph must include
  • Questions to ask yourself that will guide you towards writing the most effective release ever!
  • Once written, pointers on smart distribution
  • Not just talk: Lots of examples

Focus will also be on how to develop a specific angle, compose a headline and complete the body of the text by backing up original claims made earlier in the release.

As a result, you will learn the best means of enticing editors and reporters to cover stories unearthed from quality press releases.

As a result, you will learn the best means of enticing editors and reporters to cover stories unearthed from quality press releases. There will be a Q&A session afterward. Feel free to bring your own press release for a quick critique. In this way, we will be able to see more clearly how our own work measures up against basic press release principles.

The IWOC meeting will take place Tuesday, July 11, in Room 4G (4th fl.  Note room change for July only!) at the Gratz Center, 126 E. Chestnut St. / 115 E. Delaware, Chicago, just west of Michigan Ave., adjacent to Fourth Presbyterian Church. Discounted parking (after 5 pm, with validation) is located at the 900 N. Michigan Ave. garage. Networking at 5 p.m. Main program, 6 p.m. IWOC members admitted free and do not need to register. Nonmembers, $15. ($10 if pre-registered at http://www.iwoc.org/event-2383738). Following the meeting, attendees are invited to a nearby restaurant for a buy-your-own dinner to further discuss writing-related topics or to continue networking. For more information, call 800-804-IWOC (800-804-4962) or visit www.iwoc.org.

IWOC is a nonprofit professional association of freelance writers living in the Chicago metropolitan area whose clients range from local to global. Together, IWOC members represent a broad spectrum of writing talents, consultation services, and specialties serving large corporations, small businesses, and not-for-profit organizations.

- Vladimire Herard

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June Meeting Recap

What Freelance Writers Need to Know About SEO

If you want your website or a client’s web page to get noticed, you need Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO – the process of driving traffic to a website by ensuring that the site appears high on a list of search engine rankings – is now more important than ever thanks to the “virtual word of mouth” of the internet. At IWOC’s June meeting, Jack Lombardi, CEO of Chicago Website Design SEO Company, presented on the topic of SEO practices and what freelance writers need to know about SEO to add value for their clients.

According to Lombardi, a writer who really knows how to write for SEO is invaluable. SEO writing is not the same as keyword writing (which he called “keyword stuffing”). He said, “It’s about building your foundation and proving your worth.” When he decided to go back to martial arts, a longtime passion, he found that his coach was an internet guru, who taught Lombardi about online marketing. Lombardi’s first SEO experience was building an emergency plumbing website which he got ranked and then sold. He used that experience to build, rank and rent, and sell lead generating websites.

Lombardi said that it is important for business owners to build a strong internet footprint. One way to begin is to dominate Yelp reviews. It takes a long time for Google to trust a site and Yelp goes a long way to helping build credibility. More Yelp reviews lead to more content and Google loves content. He cited the statistic that 86% of people searching for a business go to the first listing. The business listing with the most reviews dethrones the first listing, which makes Yelp powerful. Lombardi referenced research that people who check Yelp reviews tend to spend more money.

Lombardi discussed possible workarounds to beat Google’s ranking algorithms. If you want to put up a web site that generates traffic, input your NAP (name, address, and phone number) consistently, and slowly get reviews from your clients. A measured approach is key, he said, as suddenly going from zero to 50 reviews is a red flag to Google that will cause the reviews to get filtered as spam

Upwork, a remote working platform for freelancers, was recommended for writers looking to build a foundation on the internet. Lombardi uses Upwork to hire freelance writers. His vetting process, includes looking at a 90% job success rate and reviews of four stars and above.

“It’s about building your foundation and proving your worth.”

Siloing is helpful not only for building client websites, but also for constructing writer web sites. Lombardi provided a high-level overview of simple siloing and drew a whiteboard schematic to illustrate his presentation. He said that Google recognizes a page as more important than a post. The hierarchy of Domain (.com), followed by page, then post is necessary to get ranked on Google. A local business SEO, should have “Chicago” in the URL as a geo modifier. Geo modifiers help communicate the local intent of a search query and are especially important in competitive industries.

One audience member asked about keyword research; Lombardi observed that what a business owner needs and wants are two different things. Keyword research requires more digging (e.g. understanding the distinction between “plumber” and “emergency plumber”) to place the client in front of the person who needs him or her the most.

IWOC Members:
Click here to access the meeting podcast!

Is it preferable to be a generalist or a specialist? Lombardi answered, “There’s riches in niches,” He is developing SEO courses to sell to Trello (an online training platform) to provide him with another income stream in case of a market slowdown.

Success in SEO is a balancing act between creativity and technical performance.

Lombardi observed that writers often make errors when writing title tags for web content, to the detriment of SEO performance. He said that H1 tags should be used for services, at the page level, to tell Google what the page is about. H2 title tags should be used at the post level.

Success in SEO is a balancing act between creativity and technical performance.

- Shanti Nagarkatti

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President's Column

Reference Books: My Father’s Gift

Laura Stigler

I probably should have written this for the June Stet, since it would have been perfectly timed. But as of this writing, Father’s Day is coming up this weekend – the first Father’s Day to be spent without my Dad. I don’t think I have to go into what I’m feeling as the day approaches. I’m sure everyone who has lost anyone knows what it feels like whenever “the firsts” roll around. The first holiday without them. The first birthday. But neither my Dad nor my Mom were sad sorts. They’d rather we celebrate. So in the name of Father’s Day, I’d like to share one of the greatest gifts my Dad gave to me: His love of reference books.

Of course, you may ask, what with the instantaneous ease of the Internet, do we even need reference books any more? Yet there still exist some very specialized ones that are arguably easier to consult than the Internet. For depending on what you’re seeking in the way of words, right there between the book covers you may find the answers that will come to your writerly rescue. Maybe you’re familiar with these. Maybe not. Either way, here are three of my faves:

For depending on what you’re seeking in the way of words, right there between the book covers you may find the answers that will come to your writerly rescue.

Random House Word Menu, by Stephen Glazier. Say you’re writing an ad...an article...a poem about sailing. The Word Menu will give you every imaginable term that applies to that subject – from stem to stern. So to speak. Thousands of words in hundreds of categories are covered, organized within seven major sections, from Science and Technology to Arts and Leisure to The Human Condition. Even if you’re not on assignment, it’s fun just grazing through this veritable vocabulary feast.

Flip Dictionary, by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. Surely you’ve experienced the frustration of knowing what you want to say – but the exact word escapes you? The Flip Dictionary is for you! For instance, the other day I could not think of “apprehensive.” “Anxious” came to mind, but wasn’t quite right. Since that was the only word occurring to me, I looked it up in the FD, and voilà! “apprehensive” popped off the page. What a fabulous feeling when the right word comes to you. Or in this case, you to it.

And then there’s the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary. This one really appeals to the kid in me: It’s chockfull of gorgeous illustrations detailing everything from the distinguishing characteristics of Neoclassical architecture (exemplified by the U.S. State Capitol), to the anatomy of the Muscular System – this last one I consulted when dealing with a physical pain and wanted the accurate name of the offending muscle. Found it. (Yes, I tried looking it up online. Let’s just say it was a pain in the ass.) Warning: Once you start riffling through the pages of the IOD, it’s hard to stop.

There is just something about holding a book and getting lost in it.

I’ll bet you have a favorite reference book. Tell it! Yeah, it’s “old school,” but so what. There is just something about holding a book and getting lost in it. As writers, I’m certain you understand precisely what I’m referring to.

- Laura Stigler

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Independence Day Trivia


It took less than one month (June 11, 1776 – July 4, 1776) to draft and finalize the Declaration of Independence. There were 86 changes to the draft document that was officially adopted on July 4th.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the Declaration.

Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870.

In 1938 Congress reaffirmed it as a paid holiday for federal employees.

- Cynthia Tomusiak


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IWOC Member Article

Inspirational stories


Diana Schneidman

Story #1

The March 21, 2011, New Yorker had an interesting story on Barry Michels and Phil Stutz, psychoanalysts to screenwriters with writer’s block and other Hollywood creatives. .

The pair specialize in innovative treatments. Like the guy who is unable to write a script after a year and a half of trying. So Michels tells him to close his eyes and say what he is grateful for. Then he is to set his timer, every day, for one minute and pray in front of his computer for help in writing the worst sentence ever.

It eventually works and the writer completes an Oscar-winning script.

(I’ve got my doubts but it’s an interesting cure.)

It eventually works and the writer completes an Oscar-winning script.

Story #2

Stutz, upon moving to Hollywood, has no clients so he cold calls other therapists for referrals. Each day he phones the most dreaded person on his list, which he calls “eating ‘a death cookie.’”

He says, “The risk you take has a feedback effect on the unconscious. The unconscious will give you ideas and it wants you to act on them. The more courage you have when you act, the more ideas it will give you.”

Story #3 (a George Clooney story)

Actor George Clooney said something simple yet profound in the September 25, 2011, issue of Parade, the Sunday newspaper insert.

He noted that he had been “proficient at failure,” but that he had learned from failure how to do better next time.

In regards to his acting career, he told the interviewer:

I had to stop going to auditions thinking, “Oh, I hope they like me.” I had to go in thinking I was the answer to their problem. You could feel the difference in the room immediately.

This advice applies to contacting potential clients about freelance and consulting services.

This certainty that we offer a service that clients need inspires us to keep phoning and otherwise reaching out when we start feeling tired or bored or discouraged.

This certainty that we offer a service that clients need inspires us to keep phoning and otherwise reaching out when we start feeling tired or bored or discouraged.

This confidence also helps solve the problem of deciding exactly what we should say. To script out everything carefully and then try to memorize words the sales experts say should work pressures us to strive for perfection in the hope of impressing them. The more we hope they like us, the more timid and fearful we feel, stumbling over our words and tormented by any slip-ups.

“What impression am I making?” we wonder. Or worse yet, “Do they resent my wasting their time?” “Are they sorry they answered the phone?” “Are they going to swear at me or hang up on me?”

Instead, let’s remember that we’re calling to offer help to prospects in solving their problems.

Let’s focus on our mission—to benefit our clients.

Diana Schneidman is an IWOC member and the author of Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less, available on Amazon.

- Diana Schneidman

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IWOC's New Members

There were no new members this month - invite someone to a meeting!

- Roger Rueff

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IWOC Board of Directors

Laura Stigler (President), Jeff Steele (Vice-president), Claire Nicolay (Secretary), Brent Brotine (Treasurer), David Steinkraus (Parliamentarian), George Becht, Tom Lanning, Diana Schneidman, Cynthia Tomusiak

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